Enrique ready for rocky reception
Sat, 27 Apr 2013 12:44:00
The chase for fourth spot in the Bundesliga is hotting up with Schalke's home game with Hamburg on Sunday set to be crucial.
Just two points separate the sides who go into the weekend placed fourth and eighth, and with four games of the season to go, all is still to play for.
"It's going to be a very interesting weekend," said Schalke coach Jens Keller. "We desperately want to pick up points in the battle for fourth and, together with our fans, celebrate a win against Hamburg. We have got to make the most of home advantage."
To achieve that, Keller may place his faith in Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who has been absent for six weeks due to injury, but is now back in full training.
His record of having scored four goals in his last three games against the northern Germany side make him an ideal candidate to lead the attack.
"I have been positively surprised by the physical condition Klaas-Jan Huntelaar has been in during training," said Keller at a press conference. "There is definitely the chance that he will start against Hamburg."
His compatriot Rafael van der Vaart will be Hamburg's dangerman, although Keller has ruled out marking him man for man. "We won't have anybody treading on his toes," he said.
Hamburg come into the game with less pressure, according to their coach Thorsten Fink.
"Schalke are under pressure because they desperately want to qualify for the Champions League," he said.
After a difficult start to the season, Hamburg's aim was never to finish inside the top four, although if the chance were to present itself, they would not turn it down.
"We want to surprise in a positive way," added Fink, whose side are one of five clubs still fighting out for three places in Europe next season.
United manager Jackie McNamara confirmed United would be appealing the decision.
He said: "I've just seen the monitor, he (Douglas) won the ball, I don't think it was a yellow, never mind a red - this is one we'll be appealing."
County midfielder Iain Vigurs admitted he was surprised when United's Barry Douglas was sent off for a challenge on Sproule early in the second period.
He said: "I haven't seen it again on TV - it looked like the got the ball but the linesman obviously saw something."
Vigurs played down the prospect of finishing in a European spot. He said: "We're not really thinking about Europe all we were interested in was picking up points.
"It's been a bit of a crazy season - the last four games haven't been the best but we played some good stuff, especially in the second half and we could have got more goals."
Vigurs, who laid on the winner for Sproule, said: "It wasn't the best of games but it was a vital three points."
On the goal, he added: "I managed to get to the byline and dinked it over and Ivan was in the right place at the right time. It was a great ball from Paul Lawson in the first place, he's played well since coming back into the side in January."
Since defeating United 2-0 in a League Cup clash back in 1998, County had lost six and drawn four of the last 10 meetings between the teams.
But County thoroughly deserved their win on this occasion - a result which keeps them within touching distance of a European place.
The Spaniard left St James' Park for Anfield in the summer of 2011 after criticising the club's transfer policy which saw them sell Kevin Nolan, Joey Barton and Andy Carroll prior to his departure.
Magpies supporters have never forgotten that blast, and Enrique knows he is unlikely to be warmly welcomed on his return to Tyneside.
"I know I am not going to have a good reception there but I think I did really well while I was there," he said.
"I expect it (abuse) a little bit because Andy and I were in the team and we were playing well.
"They took my words badly when I said they would never be in the top six if they sell their best players, they took it the wrong way.
"I am not a player who is bad with people, I try to treat people well but if they want to receive me badly I will be ready for it.
"I am really happy how they treated me there, they gave me the opportunity to play in the Premier League.
"They are fighting to avoid relegation and I hope they stay in the Premier League.
"We need three points and of course after that I hope they win all their games."
Enrique finished his last appearance at St James' Park in goal after Jose Reina was sent off in a 2-0 defeat last season.
The left-back admits he was unhappy with then manager Kenny Dalglish for putting him in that position.
"It was not a very good day. I think I can play like a 'keeper against any team but not against my ex-team," he added.
"To be honest for me it was not really good from our manager, I was a little bit angry with Kenny at that moment but it is in the past - I hope I never finish in goal against Newcastle again."
Enrique admits there is little more than local pride for Liverpool to play for in their remaining four matches.
Finishing above near-neighbours Everton is about the limit of their targets as even a place in the Europa League looking out of reach as they trail fifth-placed Tottenham by 10 points.
"I know it is difficult to play for something this year but we will try to be as high as we can," he said.
"Hopefully when we finish the league we can be in a better position than Everton, though they are doing really well this season."